Sarah Sak, 50, from Hull tells her shocking story...
When my son Anthony Walgate announced, aged 18, that he was moving to London, my heart sank.
‘If I want to make it in Fashion, I need to be in London,’ he insisted.
Anthony had always dreamed of being a famous fashion designer, sketching his first outfit aged 12.
So I helped him enrol at college in the big city.
He never told me he was gay, but I knew, and I watched proudly as my shy Mummy’s boy blossomed into a smiling, confident young man.
By March 2014, Anthony, then 23, was studying Fashion at Middlesex Uni, where my hubby Sami, 48, and I went to see his catwalk show.
I watched in awe as models strutted around in pieces Anthony had designed, cheered loudly when he came on stage to take a bow.
‘You’re already a star,’ I beamed.
That June, Sami and I jetted to Turkey. But, several days into our holiday, I switched on my phone to check my messages, and it started buzzing like crazy.
I’d missed numerous calls and texts from friends and family…
Mum, I need to speak to you, my eldest son, Paul, 32, had texted.
Call home urgently, my ex, Anthony’s dad Tom, 53, said.
Shaking, I phoned Paul.
‘Mum,’ he sobbed. ‘Anthony’s dead.’
‘No!’ I cried.
I went into shock, unable to speak or move.
Sami took the phone and within minutes we were driving to the airport. The journey’s a total blur but, back home, reality kicked in.
The police said a man called Stephen Port had found Anthony’s body slumped outside his house in Barking, east London.
‘How?’ I cried. ‘What happened?’
An investigation soon found Port was lying. Phone records showed he’d invited Anthony over after they’d met on a gay website.
Then Port changed his story, telling officers Anthony had accidentally overdosed on party drug GHB.
Port claimed he’d panicked and dragged Anthony’s body outside in case the police blamed him.
An empty bottle of GHB had been found on Anthony’s body. So Port was charged with perverting the course of justice and bailed.
But it didn’t make sense. My Anthony was a sensible lad who didn’t take risks – or drugs. And GHB was a ‘date-rape’ drug.
Convinced something wasn’t adding up, I spent weeks poring over the local paper. And, one day, a news story made my blood run cold.
In August 2014, just 500m from Port’s house, artist Gabriel Kovari, 22, had been discovered propped up against a churchyard wall.
Then, three weeks later, in September 2014, chef Daniel Whitworth, 21, was found in the same position in the same place.
An apparent suicide note by Daniel claimed Kovari had died taking drugs as they’d had sex, and, guilt-stricken, he’d taken his own life.
Police maintained the deaths were ‘unusual and slightly confusing’ but not suspicious.
‘You’re wrong,’ I told them, convinced now that Port was getting away with murder.
In March 2015, Port was sentenced for perverting the course of justice.
He got eight months, but only served four.
Then, in September that year, forklift driver Jack Taylor, 25, was found dead in the same churchyard.
By now, three of the men had been found with empty bottles of GHB, and all their mobiles discovered close to Port’s flat.
Jack’s family were suspicious, too, and pushed police to release CCTV of Jack walking with a tall, blond man near Barking station.
An officer recognised the man as Port.
Surely now, the police would have to pay attention..?
Finally, police connected all four deaths and, in October 2015, Stephen Port was arrested.
Following the media coverage, more men came forward, claiming they’d been drugged, raped and sexually assaulted at Port’s flat after meeting him online.
I felt vindicated, furious, horrified…
In October last year, Stephen Port, 41, stood trial at London’s Old Bailey.
He denied 29 charges, including four murders and a string of rapes.
Even after everything, the things I heard turned my stomach. The jury were told how predator Port had a fetish for having sex with unconscious partners. Sickening.
He met his victims on gay websites and dating apps, targeting young, boyish men, known as ‘twinks’.
He then lured them to his flat, plied them with lethal doses of GHB, and assaulted them after they’d passed out. And the overdose had caused four, including Anthony, to die.
Callous Port then dumped their bodies, planted empty GHB bottles, even a fake suicide note.
I cheered and sobbed when Port was found guilty of all four murders, and convicted of four rapes, four assaults by penetration and 10 counts of administering a substance with intent of overpowering so as to engage in sexual activity.
Handing Port a whole-life tariff, Mr Justice Openshaw called him ‘wicked and monstrous’.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the case. And, along with Daniel’s and Jack’s families, we’re taking civil action against the Met Police.
Now we cling to our memories of our beloved Anthony – his smile, talent, and zest for life…
And hope that monster rots until the day he dies.
Following the trial, Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said, ‘Evidence heard at the trial did identify potentially missed opportunities to catch Port sooner. I am personally writing to the families of the four young men who died, as well as Daniel Whitworth’s partner, to express our sincere condolences…and apologise for those missed opportunities. We have not waited for the IPCC investigation to bring in measures to enhance the knowledge and understanding of our officers about drug-facilitated sexual assault or sexual assault following chemsex.’